14 December 2012

Enthusiasms (36) ~ Tarbaby


So, here is a CD by a trio named Tarbaby consisting in Orrin Evans (p), Eric Revis (b) and Nasheet Waits (d).  The trio is designed to be expandable, meaning it is meant, over time, to accommodate friends, collaborators, co-conspirators. In this instance - their second CD, entitled the end of fear (Posi-Tone Records 2010) - their accomplices are J.D. Allen (tenor), Oliver Lake (alto) and Nicholas Payton (trumpet). A very, very, very good CD, and a nice concept for an improvisatory (in the organizational sense) ensemble. Not only is the music terrific, it gives me a bit of a soapbox.

You'll note that among the labels attached to this post is one that reads "jazz." Pianist Orrin Evans has been embroiled in a bit of a fracas regarding whether that term should be accepted, or discarded as insulting and basically racist. You can find a brief story here laying out his views. There is not much news in the disagreement - in which Payton apparently has played a major role. (Recall that the motto of the AACM has been "Great Black Music, Ancient to the Future" for decades now.) Lots of white folks nevertheless get worked up about the claim that jazz fundamentally is black people's music. I do not see why that observation is startling at all and, in fact, have written here repeatedly about the racial amnesia surrounding "jazz" in its safe and predictable manifestations, epitomized by the relationship between local jazz fest and the white denizens of suburbia who use it as an excuse for tourist forays into the city.

In any case, Evans is mostly interested in reinvigorating the black audience for jazz. That is an admirable task. And if, in the process, some white folks get their knickers in a knot, that leaves him (rightly, I think) perplexed: "Why is it exclusionary when we all know and we all recognize that jazz is an African-American art form?  . . .  I understand where anything black, to people who are not black, is exclusionary if they're not comfortable in their own skin." I myself look at jazz and other variants of Great Black Music as a gift (intellectual, aesthetic, organizational), which I receive with all the humility I can muster.

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3 Comments:

Blogger John Edwin Mason said...

Jazz has many roots. You, I, and everyone who truly know the music understand that the deepest are in the African-American experience. That's always been part and parcel of its lure (and of the loathing many have had for it), right from its beginnings.

I'm sure that there are many reasons that folks find this so threatening. I could make some guesses.

But I'd rather point out to your readers that, if they follow the link you provide to Tarbaby's website, they'll find some terrific videos that are a fine introduction to the band's sound.

15 December, 2012 16:53  
Blogger John Edwin Mason said...

Jazz has many roots. You, I, and everyone who truly know the music understand that the deepest are in the African-American experience. That's always been part and parcel of its lure (and of the loathing many have had for it), right from its beginnings.

I'm sure that there are many reasons that folks find this so threatening. I could make some guesses.

But I'd rather point out to your readers that, if they follow the link you provide to Tarbaby's website, they'll find some terrific videos that are a fine introduction to the band's sound.

15 December, 2012 16:55  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

John, I thank you for your closing comment. My problem is that musicians like these never appear at our local "jazz" festival. And that is where the exposure and opportunities will arise. And that is where audiences might be challenged a bit more than hearing yet another pop or R&B performer (many of whom I really like). Hence my diatribe. Best, Jim

17 December, 2012 20:52  

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